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Climate Hustle

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #8

Posted on 23 February 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, Feb 17 through Sat, Feb 23, 2019

Editor's Pick

The 3 Big Things That People Misunderstand About Climate Change

David Wallace-Wells, author of the new book The Uninhabitable Earth,describes why climate change might alter our sense of time.

Flooding Congqing China 07-20-2010

A child sleeps on a couch in a flooded street in Chongqing, China, on July 20, 2010. REUTERS

The year is 2100. The United States has been devastated by climate change. Super-powerful hurricanes regularly ravage coastal cities. Wildfires have overrun Los Angeles several times over. And it is dangerous to go outside on some summer days—children and the elderly risk being broiled alive.

In such a world as that one, will we give up on the idea of historical progress? Should we even believe in it now? In his new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, the writer David Wallace-Wells considers how global warming will change not only the experience of human life but also our ideas and philosophies about it. It’s possible, he told me recently, that climate change will make us believe that history is “something that takes us backward rather than forward.”

“The 21st century will be dominated by climate change in the same way that … the 19th century in the West was dominated by modernity or industry,” he said. “There won’t be an area of human life that is untouched by it.”

I recently talked to Wallace-Wells about his new book, the difficulty of writing stories about climate change, and which science-fiction prophecy he believes came true. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The 3 Big Things That People Misunderstand About Climate Change by Robinson Meyer, Science, The Atlantic, Feb 22, 2019


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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. David Wallace-Wells certainly resonates on the issues for me, except that novels on climate change sound like they would feed into the denialist campaign of making fun of the issue. Also novel writers and hollywood making money on such a serious issue is sickening, and will just confuse the science.

    Regarding his comments on carbon footprints and political action, I would add solar panels for home use and electric cars are still expensive, so its hard to see the average person buying these. Politicians have to subsidise these sorts of things or have carbon fee and dividend programmes etc. But governments seem scared of having robust policies, possibly in case they upset some lobby group or campaign funder, or have to cut costs in some other area of government action and upset the public.It's going to take very brave politicians, and such animals are rare.

    I'm getting despondent about whether the climate issue will be fixed. But something has to happen, because a world up around 3-8 degrees will almost certainly be the disaster scenario Wells talks about. Not wishing to downplay 2 degrees which will be quite serious enough.

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  2. "The year is 2100."   Is it?

    10 September 2018
    Secretary-General's remarks on Climate Change

    “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”
    https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2018-09-10/secretary-generals-remarks-climate-change-delivered

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  3. Hi All-

    Please comment on Moore's text below so that I can refute his opinions with facts in an argument I am having with a friend about its content:

    Patrick Moore Comments to refute/clarify:
    CO2 lags temperature by an average of 800 years during the most recent 400,000-year period, indicating that temperature is the cause, as the cause never comes after the effect.
    Looking at the past 50,000 years of temperature and CO2 we can see that changes in CO2 follow changes in temperature. This is as one could expect, as the Milankovitch cycles are far more likely to cause a change in temperature than a change in CO2. And a change in the temperature is far more likely to cause a change in CO2 due to outgassing of CO2 from the oceans during warmer times and an ingassing (absorption) of CO2 during colder periods. Yet climate alarmists persist in insisting that CO2 is causing the change in temperature, despite the illogical nature of that assertion.
    . Will our CO2 emissions stave off another glaciation as James Lovelock has suggested? There doesn’t seem to be much hope of that so far, as despite 1/3 of all our CO2 emissions being released during the past 18 years the UK Met Office contends there has been no statistically significant warming during this century.
    By 7,000 years ago all the low-altitude, mid-latitude glaciers had melted. There is no consensus about the variation in sea level since then although many scientists have concluded that the sea level was higher than today during the Holocene Thermal optimum from 9,000 to 5,000 years ago when the Sahara was green. The sea level may also have been higher than today during the Medieval Warm Period.
    Coming back to the relationship between temperature and CO2 in the modern era we can see that temperature has risen at a steady slow rate in Central England since 1700 while human CO2 emissions were not relevant until 1850 and then began an exponential rise after 1950. This is not indicative of a direct causal relationship between the two. After freezing over regularly during the Little Ice Age the River Thames froze for the last time in 1814, as the Earth moved into what might be called the Modern Warm Period.
    The IPCC states it is “extremely likely” that human emissions have been the dominant cause of global warming “since the mid-20th century”, that is since 1950. They claim that “extremely” means 95% certain, even though the number 95 was simply plucked from the air like an act of magic. And “likely” is not a scientific word but rather indicative of a judgment, another word for an opinion.
    There was a 30-year period of warming from 1910-1940, then a cooling from 1940 to 1970, just as CO2 emissions began to rise exponentially, and then a 30-year warming from 1970-2000 that was very similar in duration and temperature rise to the rise from 1910-1940. One may then ask “what caused the increase in temperature from 1910-1940 if it was not human emissions? And if it was natural factors how do we know that the same natural factors were not responsible for the rise between 1970-2000.” You don’t need to go back millions of years to find the logical fallacy in the IPCC’s certainty that we are the villains in the piece.
    Water is by far the most important greenhouse gas, and is the only molecule that is present in the atmosphere in all three states, gas, liquid, and solid. As a gas, water vapour is a greenhouse gas, but as a liquid and solid it is not. As a liquid water forms clouds, which send solar radiation back into space during the day and hold heat in at night. There is no possibility that computer models can predict the net effect of atmospheric water in a higher CO2 atmosphere. Yet warmists postulate that higher CO2 will result in positive feedback from water, thus magnifying the effect of CO2 alone by 2-3 times. Other scientists believe that water may have a neutral or negative feedback on CO2. The observational evidence from the early years of this century tends to reinforce the latter hypothesis.
    Even at the today’s concentration of 400 ppm plants are relatively starved for nutrition. The optimum level of CO2 for plant growth is about 5 times higher, 2000 ppm, yet the alarmists warn it is already too high.
    All the CO2 in the atmosphere has been created by outgassing from the Earth’s core during massive volcanic eruptions. This was much more prevalent in the early history of the Earth when the core was hotter than it is today. During the past 150 million years there has not been enough addition of CO2 to the atmosphere to offset the gradual losses due to burial in sediments.
    Today, at just over 400 ppm, there are 850 billion tons of carbon as CO2 in the atmosphere. By comparison, when modern life-forms evolved over 500 million years ago there was nearly 15,000 billion tons of carbon in the atmosphere, 17 times today’s level. Plants and soils combined contain more than 2,000 billion tons of carbon, more that twice as much as the entire global atmosphere. The oceans contain 38,000 billion tons of carbon, as dissolved CO2, 45 times as much as in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels, which are made from plants that pulled CO2 from the atmosphere account for 5,000 – 10,000 billion tons of carbon, 6 – 12 times as much carbon as is in the atmosphere.
    But the truly stunning number is the amount of carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere and turned into carbonaceous rocks. 100,000,000 billion tons, that’s one quadrillion tons of carbon, have been turned into stone by marine species that learned to make armour-plating for themselves by combining calcium and carbon into calcium carbonate. Limestone, chalk, and marble are all of life origin and amount to 99.9% of all the carbon ever present in the global atmosphere. The white cliffs of Dover are made of the calcium carbonate skeletons of coccolithophores, tiny marine phytoplankton.
    The vast majority of the carbon dioxide that originated in the atmosphere has been sequestered and stored quite permanently in carbonaceous rocks where it cannot be used as food by plants.
    Beginning 540 million years ago at the beginning of the Cambrian Period many marine species of invertebrates evolved the ability to control calcification and to build armour plating to protect their soft bodies. Shellfish such as clams and snails, corals, coccolithofores (phytoplankton) and foraminifera (zooplankton) began to combine carbon dioxide with calcium and thus to remove carbon from the life cycle as the shells sank into sediments; 100,000,000 billion tons of carbonaceous sediment. It is ironic that life itself, by devising a protective suit of armour, determined its own eventual demise by continuously removing CO2 from the atmosphere. This is carbon sequestration and storage writ large. These are the carbonaceous sediments that form the shale deposits from which we are fracking gas and oil today. And I add my support to those who say, “OK UK, get fracking”.
    The past 150 million years has seen a steady drawing down of CO2 from the atmosphere. There are many components to this but what matters is the net effect, a removal on average of 37,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year for 150 million years. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was reduced by about 90% during this period. This means that volcanic emissions of CO2 have been outweighed by the loss of carbon to calcium carbonate sediments on a multi-million year basis.
    If this trend continues CO2 will inevitably fall to levels that threaten the survival of plants, which require a minimum of 150 ppm to survive. If plants die all the animals, insects, and other invertebrates that depend on plants for their survival will also die.
    How long will it be at the present level of CO2 depletion until most or all of life on Earth is threatened with extinction by lack of CO2 in the atmosphere?
    During this Pleistocene Ice Age, CO2 tends to reach a minimum level when the successive glaciations reach their peak. During the last glaciation, which peaked 18,000 years ago, CO2 bottomed out at 180 ppm, extremely likely the lowest level CO2 has been in the history of the Earth. This is only 30 ppm above the level that plants begin to die. Paleontological research has demonstrated that even at 180 ppm there was a severe restriction of growth as plants began to starve. With the onset of the warmer interglacial period CO2 rebounded to 280 ppm. But even today, with human emissions causing CO2 to reach 400 ppm plants are still restricted in their growth rate, which would be much higher if CO2 were at 1000-2000 ppm.
    Here is the shocking news. If humans had not begun to unlock some of the carbon stored as fossil fuels, all of which had been in the atmosphere as CO2 before sequestration by plants and animals, life on Earth would have soon been starved of this essential nutrient and would begin to die. Given the present trends of glaciations and interglacial periods this would likely have occurred less than 2 million years from today, a blink in nature’s eye, 0.05% of the 3.5 billion-year history of life.
    No other species could have accomplished the task of putting some of the carbon back into the atmosphere that was taken out and locked in the Earth’s crust by plants and animals over the millennia.
    It does boggle the mind in the face of our knowledge that the level of CO2 has
    been steadily falling that human CO2 emissions are not universally acclaimed as a miracle of salvation. From direct observation we already know that the extreme predictions of CO2’s impact on global temperature are highly unlikely given that about one-third of all our CO2 emissions have been discharged during the past 18 years and there has been no statistically significant warming. And even if there were some additional warming that would surely be preferable to the
    analysis of the historical record and the prediction of CO2 starvation based on the 150 million year trend. Ad hominem arguments about “deniers” need not apply. I submit that much of society has been collectively misled into believing that global CO2 and temperature are too high when the opposite is true for both. Does anyone deny that below 150 ppm CO2 that plants will die? Does anyone deny that the Earth has been in a 50 million-year cooling period and that this Pleistocene Ice Age is one of the coldest periods in the history of the planet?
    If we assume human emissions have to date added some 200 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, even if we ceased using fossil fuels today we have already bought another 5 million years for life on earth. But we will not stop using fossil fuels to power our civilization so it is likely that we can forestall plant starvation for lack of CO2 by at least 65 million years. Even when the fossil fuels have become scarce we have the quadrillion tons of carbon in carbonaceous rocks, which we can transform into lime and CO2 for the manufacture of cement. And we already know how to do that with solar energy or nuclear energy. This alone, regardless of fossil fuel consumption, will more than offset the loss of CO2 due to calcium carbonate burial in marine sediments. Without a doubt the human species has made it possible to prolong the survival of life on Earth for more than 100 million years. We are not the enemy of nature but its salvation.

    Some of the world’s oil comes from my native country in the Canadian oil sands of northern Alberta. I had never worked with fossil fuel interests until I became incensed with the lies being spread about my country’s oil production in the capitals of our allies around the world. I visited the oil sands operations to find out for myself what was happening there.
    It is true it’s not a pretty sight when the land is stripped bare to get at the sand so the oil can be removed from it. Canada is actually cleaning up the biggest natural oil spill in history, and making a profit from it. The oil was brought to the surface when the Rocky Mountains were thrust up by the colliding Pacific Plate. When the sand is returned back to the land 99% of the so-called “toxic oil” has been removed from it.
    Anti-oil activists say the oil-sands operations are destroying the boreal forest of Canada. Canada’s boreal forest accounts for 10% of all the world’s forests and the oil-sands area is like a pimple on an elephant by comparison. By law, every square inch of land disturbed by oil-sands extraction must be returned to native boreal forest. When will cities like London, Brussels, and New York that have laid waste to the natural environment be returned to their native ecosystems?
    The art and science of ecological restoration, or reclamation as it is called in the mining industry, is a well-established practice. The land is re-contoured, the original soil is put back, and native species of plants and trees are established. It is possible, by creating depressions where the land was flat, to increase biodiversity by making ponds and lakes where wetland plants, insects, and waterfowl can become established in the reclaimed landscape.
    The tailings ponds where the cleaned sand is returned look ugly for a few years but are eventually reclaimed into grasslands. The Fort McKay First Nation is under contract to manage a herd of bison on a reclaimed tailings pond. Every tailings pond will be reclaimed in a similar manner when operations have been completed.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Welcome to Skeptical Science. Your comment reads as gish-gallop of debunked myths and violates comments policy. Please use the Search function or the "Arguments" menu item to find appropriate topics and put your comments there. Questions are welcome but please note that conformance with the comments policy is not optional.

  4. alonerock @3,

    These are the words of  a deluded climate change denier from an address he made 3-years-ago to a room of other climatechange deniers (in total 6,300 words). The extract you present is still rather long (2,300 words). Is there a particular part of it that needs rebunking? (A quick scan down to where he starts off about tar sands shows it is all pretty-much waffly nonsense, so it is all up for the treatment.)

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  5. This could be the mother of all Gish gallops. If you want  anyone to give some attention to such a huge pile of nonsense, you should break it up in smaller fragments and take them to the appropriate thread. No references are provided and some parts of the gallop will show up obivously as the gross lies they are with only a few minutes of scrutiny. Other parts are more sophisticated and relfect craftmanship in misrepresentation. Some are accurate and of course out of context or used outside of their significance. It is obvious he is advocating for his industry. If you want to argue, perhaps you should do your own work. There is plenty on this site, and Google scholar is your friend.

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  6. "CO2 lags temperature by an average of 800 years during the most recent 400,000-year period, indicating that temperature is the cause, as the cause never comes after the effect."

    Well this is of course wrong. It's well known that while changes in the planets orbit caused the initial warming, CO2 caused most of the warming as a feedback mechanism here.

    However its wrong in other respects as well.  I read this article on some  research that the 800 year lag is only a couple of hundred years, and it has some interesting explanations on how the feedback mechanism worked in the antarctic region here.

    The point being that this is one example of many where alonewrock is not only deluded, but is so out of touch with more recent research and data.

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  7. this was not my text, It was Moore's and I was simply asking people to comment on his errors, of which there are many. Possibly too lengthy to correct. I was simply hoping for help that would save me some time, and I will aslo do my own research to refute his opinions.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fair enough, I admit I jumped to conclusions. You will find the search function very useful for locating the science to refute that myth collection.

  8. Alonerock, oops sorry I got the names confused. I hope I have at least helped with one point.

    Nobody is going to have the time to go through every ridiculous statement by Moore, so have a look at the myths in the left hand of this page, because its mostly all there. Mostly, because restoring land after mining is not really a climate issue, but I suspect a google search would quickly establish if mines fulfill their obligations to restore the land. 

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